And the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. (1 Samuel 8:7)
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not a monarchy ruled by the pastor. The pastor is not the lord of the church. Neither is the church an oligarchy ruled by the deacons. Deacons are church servants, not church bosses. Nor is the church a democracy ruled by the people. The people are the body of Christ, not the head. The church is a theocracy which means that God rules. Christ is the head of the church. If the church is functioning Biblically, the pastors and deacons are taking their lead from Christ, and the members are following according to the direction of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Samuel 8, we have a time when Israel was a theocracy. God was their King. They decided they needed a human king like the other nations, and in so doing, rejected their Heavenly King. They rejected God, and it is possible we may also. How does this happen?
They were disappointed with the job performance of Samuel’s sons, and believed that Samuel was too old to lead them competently (v.1-5). Disappointment with God’s leaders may lead to disillusionment with God’s leadership. Leaders may fail in their duty—to some degree they will. Love your pastor, but don’t put him on a pedestal. Be loyal to your preacher, but don’t worship him. The finest pastor, most dedicated deacon, or best Sunday School teacher will fall short at times. Make any mortal an object of faith and you set yourself up for disappointment.
The people responded to the crisis of confidence in leadership by natural reasoning (v.5). Reason certainly has its place. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. God has ordained, however, that revelation be the root of our reasoning. What they needed was the clear Word of God from His servant Samuel to guide them. Instead, they turned to the world, rather than to the Word. Israel wanted to be like the pagan nations around them—ruled by a king. This is often the tragic choice made by churches today—to employ the world’s philosophy and methodology just because it works in the world. It is pragmatism and promotes that the end justifies the means.
Samuel felt a sense of rejection (v.6-9). What did God’s man do? He took it to the Lord in prayer. He didn’t bottle it up and become bitter; nor did he blow up and become angry. He trusted God to handle it. That is the response leaders must make when the people’s hearts are rebellious.
Rebellion is in our bones. The desire for personal autonomy and rebellion against authority can be traced back to Eden. What happened in Samuel’s day, and what is happening in ours, is but the latest edition of the same old story. Samuel made powerful arguments, but did not persuade them (v.10-22). They stubbornly responded, “Our minds are made up—don’t confuse us with facts!” It was an issue of authority. Would they listen to God’s messenger, and if it was the Word of God and not his own fleshly desires directing him, then follow? Or, would they think their own logic sufficient and the world’s ways superlative over God’s design?